On the taxonomic composition and phylogenetic affinities of the recently proposed clade Vegaviidae Agnolín et al., 2017 ‒ neornithine birds from the Upper Cretaceous of the Southern Hemisphere
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Polarornis and Vegavis from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica are among the few Mesozoic birds from the Southern Hemisphere. In the original descriptions, they were assigned to two widely disparate avian clades, that is, Gaviiformes and crown group Anseriformes, respectively. In a recent publication, however, specimens referred to both taxa were classified into a new higher-level taxon, Vegaviidae, to which various other late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic avian taxa were also assigned. Here, we detail that classification into Vegaviidae is poorly supported for most of these latter fossils, which is particularly true for Australornis lovei and an unnamed phaethontiform fossil from the Waipara Greensand in New Zealand. Plesiomorphic traits of the pterygoid and the mandible clearly show that Vegavis is not a representative of crown group Anseriformes, and we furthermore point out that even anseriform or galloanserine affinities of Vegaviidae have not been firmly established.
© 2018 Elsevier. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ This author accepted manuscript is made available following 24 month embargo from date of publication (Feb 2018) in accordance with the publisher’s archiving policy